Abyss & Apex : Fourth Quarter 2008: Snips And Snails

Snips And Snails
a tale from the DMA casefiles

by Patrick Thomas


This definitely qualified as the oddest undercover assignment I had ever had. Usually tucking babies in isn’t something an agent of the Department of Mystic Affairs has to do unless the child is his. Or hers. The odds of me ever having kids is somewhere below slim and barely above none. The seriél demon that had once possessed me had done a lot to change my body. Who knows what that would do to a child, let alone having me as a father.

I held the baby awkwardly. Every time I hold an infant I remember the one whose brains were bashed out with my hands. The demon may have been the one killing, but I could still feel and see everything. The scent of talcum powder still makes me want to retch.

The baby was puckering his lips. I turned to my partner Mandi Cobb. For the sake of this assignment, we were husband and wife.

“I think he’s hungry and we’re out of formula,” I teased. “I think we’ll have to go back to basics.”

“Karver, that’s not happening. Best I can do is nuke some frozen pizza or a burrito,” said Mandi.

“That’s not exactly baby food.”

“I’ll run it through the blender,” she said.

“I think little Gus isn’t ready for that. It would probably be best to put him to bed. Want to kiss him goodnight?”

Mandi looked at him and made a face. “He’s an ugly baby.”

“You are supposed to be his loving mommy,” I said. “And who knows what is watching us?”

“Fine.” Mandi planted one on Gus’ forehead.

“C’mon little guy.” We were in the master bedroom of a three bedroom in the sleepy town of St. Albans, Vermont that stank of lavender candles. There had been a rash of baby kidnappings, the children taken right out of people’s homes. The first had been a toddler over eight months ago. Then over the last six weeks, six more children were kidnapped, all of them under a year old. The patterns of the taken were too similar for it not to be the same perp and it stank of magic. Sad that it took this long for the locals to call the DMA in, but that’s about par for most places. Nobody believes in magic until it’s staring them in the face while standing atop a pile of corpses.

I put the baby in the crib at the foot of the queen size bed, putting the soft blue blanket over his shoulders. “Goodnight, little Gus. Do you need your diaper changed?”

Gus gave me the finger. I laughed, which was rare enough. The DMA was not going to risk a baby’s life, so Gus got the job. Normally he looked like a man, although the type of man varied. Easy enough to do for a changeling. A baby was a bit more of a challenge as it required more control to maintain a smaller form, but he was up to the task.

“Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” One of Gus’ fingers briefly transformed into some sort of insect which he put on his throat and moved like it was attacking his jugular. I put a pacifier in his mouth. Gus made a face but began to suck on it. It wasn’t just to help his disguise. It had a charm that would make him appear human to any high level mystic and shot up to three very small, but potent, bullets.

I turned and Mandy was already in bed, dressed in a flannel nightgown. In theory I should get in the bed next to her, but I don’t do well with intimate physical activity, even the causal kind. The seriél always used it to lull victims into a false sense of security and allowing myself that comfort when my dead were denied it always makes it feel like my insides are ripping apart.

Mandi sensed what I was feeling, child’s play for an empath.

“Coming to bed, snokums?” teased Mandi.

It shouldn’t have bothered me. We had actually spent the night in a bed before in a purely platonic sense. When I was first recruited from death row, my nightmares wouldn’t let me sleep for more than an hour at a clip. Mandi’s a propath as well as an empath, which means she can project as well as sense emotions. Once we were partnered, she’d stay with me, letting me feel more than guilt and revulsion at what I had been forced to do. “I have some reservations.”

“You could have mentioned it earlier. I hope it’s Italian. Now I have to change my outfit.”

“I’m actually quite shocked by the outfit,” I said.

“Really?” she replied.

“Oh yes. I figured with your reputation, it would be something a little more scandalous.” Mandi is only a little less promiscuous than I am, and I haven’t been intimate since the demon was exorcised. For her it has something to do with being able to sense everything a partner is feeling. Putting on a game face doesn’t cut it with Mandi. “Where’s the leather? And the spikes?”

“All my good stuff is at the cleaners,” Mandi said.

“Do you have to pay extra to get all the stains out?” I asked.

“Naw. My cleaner has a fetish. He does it for half price.”

“Truth be told, I’m a little hesitant to get into a bed next to you. Instinct might kick in and you’d attack me. I might not be able to walk for a couple of days.”

“You have nothing to worry about. I prefer good looking men.” She patted the empty side of the mattress.

I went into the bathroom and came back out with a can of Lysol.

“What’s that for?” Mandi asked.

“I figure it’d be safest to spray the sheets down. With all the action you go in for, you’ve got to have just about every STD going, maybe even a few new ones caused by the others breeding together.”

“I think you’re thinking about toilet seats, not bed sheets,” Mandi said.

“Nope, but I have that covered too. Since we have to share a bathroom, I got the industrial strength disinfectant, the kind they use in leper colonies. And a blow torch.”

There was snickering from the crib. Mandi threw a baby bottle at Gus. “Anything more from the peanut gallery and when I get you, I’ll make it look like SIDS.” The baby bottle flew back out and hit Mandi in the shoulder, a tiny bit of formula squirting out on her sleeve.

“Honey, is that any way to talk about our son?” I teased.

“What do you mean ours? You actually think you’re the father?”

“I had hoped. Whose is it then?” I said.

“Not really sure. Either one of the State U football players or a sailor.”

“Just one?” I said.

“Probably, although which one would be hard to narrow down. It was around the time of Fleet Week.”

“At least you were doing you’re best to give the troops something to fight for. And test to see if they learned anything from watching those VD films.”

The bantering had the desired effect. My mind was dragged out of my cesspool of a past and I was able to climb into my side of the bed.

Mandi used the remote to turn on the TV. We had rigged all our security systems into the cable system. Any alarms would override the programming and flash on the screen. Plus we had another agent outside, blending into the woods on the neighbor’s property, not so close to scare off the kidnapper. We were on communications silence for obvious reasons. We needed to capture or follow the perp in order to find the missing children, hopefully before it’s too late. It’s the kind on thing that is always in the back of your mind, but you try hard not to think about because it erodes focus and hope.

We had put all the other families in town with children three and under in a large safe house outside of town. Luckily it was a small town and it was only forty–seven families. In a larger city, I’m not sure what we’d do. There were enough wards on that place to make sure nobody got in, so if the perp was looking for another baby, we were literally the only game in town.

I put my hand out. “Using the remote is a man’s job, you know.”

“I do. If you see one let me know.” Mandi opened a hardcover book, pretending let she was reading it. In reality she was checking the gun that was hidden inside.

The show that was on was one of the true crime variety. I don’t much care for them. Too much like work. This particular one made me break out in a cold sweat.

“Although eventually given the electric chair, the serial killer known as The Carver left a trail of bodies across the country, leaving law enforcement baffled.”

The last thing I needed to do was watch a documentary on my victims. I remember each of my sixty–three dead without any outside help.

Mandi felt my emotions go south and handed me the remote without a word. The next channel was a cooking show, which didn’t help. The demon employed many different methods to dispose of bodies. With enough spices, any meat can be made to taste good. I gagged as my pallet remembered tastes best left forgotten.

I put on some mindless sitcom and no one spoke for the next hour.

Stakeouts are generally a whole lot of boring. At least on this one we had the TV. We hadn’t discerned enough of a pattern to figure out when and if the kidnapper would strike. The best the locals were able to piece together was sometime between eleven and three. In the cases when parents were awake, something had put them to sleep. There are dozens of common and hundreds of not so common ways to knock someone out. We had to make preparations for several. Sadly, we hadn’t made the right ones. Neither Mandi nor I remembered falling asleep, but we woke with her curled in the crook of my arm. I don’t know about my partner, but I lay there for a couple of minutes in that state between waking and sleep before I realized what had happened. It was very peaceful. That ended once I realized that there was light coming in the window and the TV was off. We had tied the TV and the security systems into our own generator, so even if the line was cut the TV should have stayed on. That meant magic was employed to kill the power. My jumping out of bed caused Mandi to roll out and pull her gun out of her book holster.

“Gus is gone and the power’s down,” I said.

Mandi tried her cell and got nothing. DMA issue phones have a power source that can last half a year on standby. It also meant we couldn’t track the pacifier. It wasn’t a good sign.

Mandi stripped off her night gown, fully dressed underneath; and we ran outside, but there were no tell tale signs of an intruder. Our next stop was the woods were we found Hunter snoring in a tree.

Shouting didn’t wake him, so Mandi threw a pinecone, which smacked him right in the head. That did the trick a little too well as Hunter dropped out of the tree in a shower of leaves ready to attack. Mandi sensed the change in his mood in time to move, only Hunter was faster. Luckily so was I, thanks to the demon’s re–engineering of my body. Even with my enhanced strength and speed, I was no match for the Celtic god of the forest. Fortunately, I didn’t have to be. I made like a linebacker. It felt like I had tackled a tree. Hunter didn’t move, but he stopped his attack on Mandi.

I landed on my butt, leaves crunching beneath me. “Not a morning person, are you?”

“Sorry. I’m not used to someone being able to sneak up on me in a forest, even one as pathetic as this one. How did you find me?” he asked, offering me a hand up. I took it.

“We just followed the sound of cutting wood,” I said.

Hunter looked around, his eyes narrowed and sniffing at the air. Smelled like a forest to me. “No one is harming any of the trees in this vicinity.”

Not all gods keep updated on the affairs of man, let alone slang. Rumor has it that Hunter showed up for his interview with Uncle Sam in clothes that hadn’t been in fashion since the Renaissance. Still, being a god looks good on the resume and the man had become the best manhunter in the agency.

“He meant you were snoring,” Mandi said.

“I don’t snore.” Hunter seemed generally offended. “Wait, I was on watch. I shouldn’t have fallen asleep. Why once I went a year and a day without so much as blinking when I was hunting…”

Mandi cut him off. “Herne, did you see who took Gus? The cells are down, so we can’t use the tracker.”

His eyes went wide, answering the question even before he spoke. “No, but I will find him.”

Dropping to all fours, Hunter sniffed the ground and ran over to the house faster than a deer, using a gait that should have been awkward, but instead was oddly graceful.

“I smell magic. The kidnapper went this way.” Hunter rose to his feet and sprinted off into the woods that became Vermont state land. We followed as fast as we could, but trailed far behind.

Hunter had stopped at a small cave, practically covered by shrubberies and other growth. I wouldn’t have found it easily had Hunter not been standing in front of it.

“Are the children in there?” asked Mandi.

“They were taken in there and have not come out.”

“So why are we not going in after them?” I asked, but as I stood there I answered my own question. My altered senses picked up a low hum I had felt in the past, like a mosquito sized bee buzzing at the base of my skull. “There a nexus in there?” Hunter nodded. “Any idea where to?”

“Faerie.” That helped explain the tech outage. Faerie is not very kind to anything more modern than transistors. Without the right shielding, even automatic guns might not work for long. And there are a lot of things there that love to steal human children. It’s a dark tradition. “I am persona non grata in Titania’s kingdom and that particular Faerie Queen is not known for her mercy.” Hunter stood silent for a moment. “Did you know that I returned to Earth at her request? I was sent to kidnap my own son, a boy I didn’t even know I had. I betrayed Titania for my child and she has not forgotten. Corny…” Short for Cornelius. “…is the reason I became a DMA agent.”

“To help protect his country?” I asked.

“Nothing so noble. I had to pay child support. I have grown to love Corny and if someone dared take him, I would move heaven and Earth to get him back. I will do no less for the parents of these missing children. Nothing is worse than losing a child.”

Just then, Mandi’s cell beeped. The face of the World Wide Spider appeared on the tiny screen. We must have moved outside the range of the spell. “Are you all okay? We’ve been trying to reach you for hours.”

“The perp got Gus. Hunter tracked them to a nexus,” said Mandi.

“Any idea where it leads?” asked the electric agent.


“Which kingdom?” asked Spyder.

“Unknown,” said Mandi.

“Hold on,” said Spyder.

Spyder was undoubtedly already talking to Deputy Director Sarge Winston or Uncle Sam himself to get further instructions.

He came back on less than three minute later. “Since we do not know which kingdom, Sam says you have to stop. DMA incursion into certain territories of Faerie would violate US–Faerie treaties.”

I grabbed the phone before Mandi could respond. “Hasn’t Spyder gotten back to you yet?”

Mandi caught on pretty quick. “Not yet.”

“Maybe the Faerie magic has affected the technology again,” added Hunter. “Every minute we waste waiting possibly puts the children and Gus into greater danger.”

“Then we better go now,” I said.

Mandi put her phone down on a rock. “I’ll leave this here in case they can track it and send backup.” Hunter and Gus were normally partnered with Mox and Trevor, a lava demi–goddess and vampyre respectively. At the very least they’d come looking for us if things didn’t go well.

“Guys, I’m right here. I can hear you. You should be able to hear me,” said Spyder. “Sam ordered you guys to stand down.”

“You two better turn off your phones to protect them. When you turn them back on it should give our back up at least a couple of minutes to track us.”

“Are you sure you want to come with me?” said Hunter, ignoring Spyder’s yells at us to listen to him. “Depending on where the nexus opens up, it could go badly for both of you.”

“We aren’t letting a fellow agent go against an unknown enemy without backup. We aren’t going to abandon Gus and if we don’t join you, those six babies may be forever lost. Let’s go,” I said.

The cave was tiny, damp and at least fifteen degrees cooler than the air outside. We crawled in the dimness on our elbows over dirt and stones until we reached the end of the cave. The nexus took on the appearance of what was nearby, in this case the cave wall. When Hunter got close, it glowed ever so slightly, turning the cave an odd combination of orange and blue. The buzzing increased, making it feel like the tiny bees had relocated their hive to the back of my head. Hunter crawled through the muck to the nexus first, Mandi went next and I took up the rear.

Going through a nexus is a like going on a roller coaster that races through a Jello lake that has a live electrical wire hanging in it, but we emerged unscathed on the other side. We appeared to be in a second cave, not much bigger than the first. This one smelled of mold and something sickly sweet. I could see no light at the end. Hunter crawled ahead of us, pausing briefly at each fork in the cave to sniff long enough to make a decision. We followed him as quietly as we could crawl.

“I should have brought knee pads,” mumbled Mandi.

“Don’t you have a spare set in your purse?” I teased. We were both shushed by Herne.

Twenty minutes later we emerged into moonlight, but Hunter had us hide in the mouth of the cave, before disappearing into the woods. In the distance, birds did some nocturnal cawing. I didn’t hear or see Herne return until he was fifteen feet away from us.

“You can come out now,” he said, taking off his DMA issue cap and folding it in his belt. Antlers, far too long for the hat to conceal naturally, appeared.

“We in enemy territory?” I asked.

“Yes, but not the one I was worried about. The kidnapper stopped hiding his scent once he came through the nexus,” he said.

“He? You know who did this?” asked Mandi.

“No, but I know what he is. A bodach.”

“What do you know about them?” Mandi said.

“They appear generally as winged old men and steal children,” he said.

“What do they do with them?” I asked.

“Rumors vary. Slaves, servants, meals and mates are popular ones. We may be too late for some or all of them.”

“Why too late?” I asked.

“I felt it when we came through the nexus. Time flow here is faster than on Earth. Our friend Murphy calls it quantum geography. How much faster, I can’t say. It may only be a few hours or it may be centuries. If he let the children live, they may be dust by now,” said Hunter.

“And Gus?” asked Mandi.

“He’s Gentry. For Faerie this area has rather magic poor, but he’s a native. He’ll be older, but still alive if the bodach didn’t kill him because of the deception. They went this way.”

We trailed far behind the forest god who swung and leapt from the trees like he was in a jungle movie.

“I feel like I should be wearing a loincloth,” I said.

“Please spare us,” Mandi said. “You’ll frighten the natives. Besides you haven’t even loosened your tie.”

“Clip on.” But she knew that. With what we did it didn’t made sense to wear a potential noose around my neck.

When the brush got too thick, I resorted to pulling out one of the two blades I keep holstered on my back. They were both slightly bigger than a machete and specially made to be effective against some of the things we have to deal with and arrest. It seemed almost disrespectful to use them to slice through the undergrowth, but there was no other way to keep up. And since our automatics were as likely to fail as shoot, I figured I was better off armed than not.

At one point we lost sight of Hunter before we realized that he had clawed markers in the trees for us to follow. It didn’t take long for me to wish I had traded in my dress shoes for a pair of hiking boots. I had mud stains up past my ankles on both feet.

When we finally caught up we saw that Hunter had found the kidnapper, so we stayed back in the shadows to help if he needed us. He was confronting one of a pair of old men with what looked like wasp wings, surrounded by six boys who looked about two years apart between two and twelve. The boys were confused, probably because there were two identical bodachs giving them conflicting orders. One was obviously Gus. The other was furious and had an arm around the neck of a boy who looked about eight. He held a knife to the boy’s throat.

Hunter was trying to diffuse the situation without the boy being harmed. The bodach’s eyes were glazed over with fury. Blood was already tickling down the hostage’s neck from where the blade tip was being pressed against it.

“You can’t have them. They’re mine!” he screamed.

“You know the boys all have families who miss them and want them back,” reasoned Hunter.

“Their families don’t care, don’t care at all. The only one who cares is Brody Bodach.” Gotta love it when a perp talks about himself in third person. “Their families don’t care if they are gone.”

“That’s not true. Parents miss their children terribly,” said Hunter.

“All parents miss their children?” asked Brody Bodach.

“Yes. They would do anything to get their kids back.”

“LIAR! I will kill my brothers before I let them go to be with those who don’t love them.” The blade pressed in deeper and the eight–year–old boy whimpered.

“Nobody has to get hurt here.” Hunter had his hands out at his sides, attempting to look harmless.

“Too late. Brody Bodach was hurt and nobody cared.”

“If you really care, you won’t hurt these boys,” reason Hunter.

“Killing them will stop them from getting hurt. Death is better than pain.”

There were days I agreed with Brody Bodach, but that was a personal preference. As near as my math and age estimation skills could make out, the kidnapped kids had already lived through about two years here for every week they were gone from back home. They’d been through enough without this psycho hurting them.

Gus had positioned his disguised self between Brody Bodach and the other five kids. We signaled him to distract the perp, which he did by moving away. Mandi started broadcasting trust to the kids and we motioned them to be quiet then got them away.

“You okay getting back to the nexus?” I asked.

Mandi nodded. “You cut a big enough path.” I didn’t have to tell her I was going back to help. I handed her my second blade. She raised an eyebrow. I didn’t easily give up my knives. In addition to having traces of iron, silver and other substances mixed in with the metal to make sure it hurt most things magic, they had runes carved in. In the right hands they could do more damage to a monster than an uzi or a hand grenade. In the wrong hands… well let’s just say I have too much personal experience regarding what happens when a knife is in the wrong hands.

“Just in case.” We didn’t know if the charms on our guns would be enough to let them work and who knew what else was out there. “Be careful.”

“You too, partner.”

By the time I got back to the stand off, Gus was in his natural gray form and Brody Bodach was yelling at Hunter and the changeling that they had scared his brothers off. His arm was still around the one boy’s neck and his knife still at his throat.

I had learned from body sharing with the demon how to move quietly and I could be damn near silent when I needed to be. Gentry can be deceptively strong. I’m stronger than the average man, but trying to overpower this guy in Faerie would be a losing battle, so disarming was most likely a losing proposition.

I just had to convince him that giving up was the best option, which meant I had to make not letting the kid go seem more frightening.

He didn’t realize I was behind him until I grabbed hold of both his wings with one hand and put my blade up against the base where they attached to his back.

“You hurt the kid and I’ll slice off your wings and burn them.” Magic is funny. If the wings weren’t destroyed, he might be able to reattach them.

“Those wings are mine. Billy Bodach gave them to me when he died. Without them, I not Brody Bodach, just plain Brody. You let them go!”

“I will if you let Jordan go.” I took a risk and a guess based on when the kids were taken that this one was Jordan Allen. “Please, before he gets hurt.” I didn’t need to see the front of the boy’s neck to know he was bleeding more. The alkaline smell was enough.

The thought of losing his wings seemed to have calmed his anger. “You promise not to hurt brother Jordan? Or Brody Bodach?”

“You have my word.”

The perp let out a huge sigh. “Fine.” The kidnapper dropped his knife and let go of Jordan. “Brody Bodach too tired to fight any more.”

I cuffed him with DMA issue restraints. The charms built into the handcuffs would hold this guy easily enough. I put away my blade and the three of us took Jordan and the perp back to the nexus. Actually, Gus turned into a horse and the kid and I rode him while Hunter took Brody Bodach.

We got there as Mandi was prepping the kids to go through.

I got off Gus the horse and moved toward my partner. She handed me my blade and I sheathed it. No need to upset the children any further. “How are they doing?”

“Not good,” said Mandi. “Very few of them even remember their homes in St. Albans or their families. It’s almost like we’re the ones kidnapping them.”

“Great. How are their families going to deal with this?” I said.

Mandi shrugged. “The best they can I hope. We are going to have to call in counselors to be on hand for the reunions.”

“Let’s worry about that after we get them home,” I said. The longer we spent here, the more time passed for the families back home. Every minute would make returning harder on the kids.

Hunter made a rope from some vines and linked us all together, to make sure we all emerged one after the other instead of hours or more apart. He went through the cave first, carrying the baby boy who was stolen last week who was now a toddler. Mandi followed next and helped the four year old who had been kidnapped two weeks ago. The six and eight year olds were next, with me behind them taking Brody Bodach. The ten and twelve year olds were in back of me. Gus took up the rear.

We had been gone less than a day so less mere minutes had passed in St. Albans when we emerged.

Spyder had been waiting and watching on the phone. “You’re back.”

“We have the children,” said Hunter.

“But those aren’t babies,” Spyder said.

“Quantum geography,” Hunter replied.

Spyder cursed. “I’ll have a counselor team en route for the families within the hour.”

“We are going to take all of you back to your parents and families. We’re also going to help you get adjusted to life here in St. Albans. It will be difficult at first, but you will all get through it,” Mandi said, broadcasting a mixture of courage and optimism.

Brody Bodach was weeping. “What about me? Will I see my parents?”

“What are you talking about?” I said.

“Billy Bodach took me like I took my brothers. When he died, he gave me his wings and told me my parents had long since forgotten me and had a new baby to replace me. He told me my parents didn’t care enough about me to come for me, so I came here to save my brother from our uncaring parents. But I had forgotten where they lived so I couldn’t be sure where my brother was, so I took all the babies to save them. But their parents cared enough to have you come for them. Why didn’t you come for me?”

“Dear God,” Mandi gasped. I looked at my partner. The first kidnap victim had been a three–year–old boy named Brody Dannan. Eight months gone in Faerie at two years a week would make Brody a sixty plus year old man.

“Is he for real?” I whispered.

“Emotionally, yes. We very possibly are looking at Brody Dannan,” whispered Mandi, her face ashen.

“Damn.” This old man was really a poor kid brought up by some psycho fey. There no telling what horror the bodach did to him before he died and passed on his power, transforming the poor kid into something other than human. I felt sick to my stomach. This guy was as much a victim as the kids. It didn’t excuse the kidnappings, but it did make my heart bleed for him.

By noon we gathered the parents in the local high school auditorium. Mandi stood up and explained what had happened to their children. My partner used no emotional propathic sugar coating, so her explanations were greeted with anger and accusations of government manipulation. Like I’ve said, most folks didn’t believe in magic, even when it was staring them in the face. It took Gus going through a host of transformations and Hunter levitating all the parents before they even considered believing.

The kids had a long road ahead of them. The DMA was providing adjusted identification paperwork to account for the boys’ rapid aging. The two– and the four–year–old, even the six–year–old would be better off in the long run. The others couldn’t read or write, or even converse on any normal topics for kids their age. All the parents had a tough road ahead of them. The DMA was running DNA testing to make certain, but even that wasn’t enough for one single mother. She was sixteen and now her infant son was ten. She ended up signing over her parental rights to the Allens who took in the boy along with Jordan.

When most of the parents and kids left with their individual counselors, we still had Mary and Joe Dannan left. They were confused.

“Where’s our Brody?” Mary asked.

We explained that he had been gone so long that he had aged much more than the others. We explained what little Mandi had learned in the past few hours about what Billy Bodach had done to him. It hadn’t been pretty and his intellect hadn’t developed much beyond that of a pre–teen. And she told them it probably never would.

Finally we brought Brody out to meet them. We dispensed with the handcuffs, but made clear what we would do to him if he tried to do anything to harm his parents.

Mary Dannan saw him and began to sob on her husband’s shoulder. Joe Dannan’s jaw dropped and showed no sign of rising again any time soon.

“Mom? Dad?” said Brody, winkled and tiny easily twice the age of his own parents, neither of which was able to look at him for long.

“This can’t be our boy,” said Joe.

“I remember we had a cat named Tickles. Mom, you made me a chocolate cake for my birthday. Dad, you had a red car and used to carry me around on your shoulders.”

That only made Mary Dannan sob louder, but she was looking at her son. “He looks like my father.”

“Grampa Dave?” said Brody.

“Oh God,” she sobbed and ran out of the room.

“We’ll need to see the results of the genetic testing. We have to know for sure before we go any further with this. I’m sorry Brody,” said Joe Dannan, barely able to speak between his own weeping. He ran out to follow his wife.

Brody watched as his parents left him alone. His tears didn’t start until his father’s last footstep faded away. “I thought you said all parents love their children.”

“They do love you. It’s why they’re crying,” said Mandi.

“And sometimes love ain’t enough,” I said. Mandi glared at me, but that didn’t make what I said wrong. And sugarcoating things would only make it worse for Brody.

The fact that society failed Brody didn’t excuse his crimes, but it did allow him to plea bargain to be put in a psychiatric center for the mystically damaged. It was referred to as Ringvue, mainly because people had trouble speaking its real name.

The testing came back positive on everyone. All the families tried to make a go of it, except for one. The love the Dannans had for their radically aged son wasn’t enough for them to reconnect. Sometimes I hate being right.

To their credit, the Dannans visited Brody once a month and called every week, at least until his mother actually became pregnant again. When she started to show, Brody had a bit of an emotional breakdown and his parents stopped coming.

They still call occasionally, but it’s just not enough for Brody. His shrinks are trying to work through his many issues, but it’s an uphill battle. I don’t know if he’ll ever be released back into society and that’s probably safest for everyone that way.

Mandi and I visit him whenever we can. Apparently we’re the only ones. Poor guy’s so desperate for human contact outside the asylum that he actually asked if he could call us Mom and Dad. Mandi explained how it wouldn’t be appropriate. I just reiterated that he had enough issues without having me as his father figure, although this was probably the one case where it wouldn’t mess up the kid any worse than he already was.

Patrick Thomas is the author of 80+ short stories and fifteen books including the popular fantasy humor series MURPHY’S LORE. The eighth book, EMPTY GRAVES: Tales of Zombies, was recently released from Padwolf Publishing. His tentatively titled THE MYSTIC INVESTIGATORS OF PATRICK THOMAS and FAIRY WITH A GUN will be out in 2009 from Marietta Publishing and Padwolf respectively. Patrick co-edited HEAR THEM ROAR and the upcoming NEW BLOOD vampire anthology. Patrick has novellas in GO NOT GENTLY and FLESH AND IRON from the Two Backed Books imprint of Raw Dog Screaming. Patrick writes the syndicated satirical advice column DEAR CTHULHU. Drop by his website at www.patthomas.net


Story © 2008 Patrick Thomas. All other content copyright © 2008 ByrenLee Press 


Copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted.


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